Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Lindh's Defense Lawyer Discusses Plea Deal

James Brosnahan, John Walker Lindh's chief lawyer, discussed Lindh's decision to plead guilty and its ramifications Monday night on CNN's Wolf Blizter Reports. Kate Snow conducted the interview. Some highlights:

Plea discussions began about six weeks ago. At the "point where it became clear that the government would be willing to dismiss all terrorist charges and the charge that John conspired to kill Americans, it became something that we had to pay serious attention to, and we did. "

In discussing why the defense team and John Walker Lindh and his family seem updeat about the deal which includes a twenty year sentence, Brosnahan says it is partially because of how much worse it could have been. "As we saw it, we might get very fortunate in the case and maybe only get convicted of one or two crimes, that could be 40 years quite easily. So that was the problem."

On his client: "He's a scholarly person. He very much wants to study. When we discussed the terms of this plea bargain, he wanted to be sure he could study not only Arabic, not only Islam, but also other subjects, American history, political history."

Brosnahan thinks his client will be safe in jail because "This verdict is true. The thing about this verdict is it's true. It does reflect what he did. He was a soldier in the Taliban army in the northern part of Afghanistan, fighting the Northern Alliance. It has nothing to do with the Americans. "

On Attorney General John Ashcroft's prior statements about how much evidence the Government had against Lindh: "Today nine of those counts fell like stones and are gone. So no, he is not a terrorist. I've not heard what the attorney general said, but if he said there's anything in this case that establishes John as a terrorist, I think he'd better read the pleadings."

Lead prosecutor Paul McNulty was interviewed next. The only highlight to us was his answer when asked about the Spann family's negative reaction to the deal. "I don't think [the Spanns] represent the vast majority of those men and women in military. We had a number of them here with us today who were going to be witnesses in our hearings this week, and they were quite satisfied, in fact, quite pleased. They recognized that this was a significant sentence. I personally told them of the sentence, and the reaction was very positive. "

(Quotes from transcript available at Lexis Nexis .)

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